Give Kids a Chance to Thrive
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Defender of the Weak
Diane Latiker grew up with a Christian mom that loves the Lord. Yet, at 16 years old, Diane got pregnant. Marrying the father came next because she thought that was the right thing to do. Ten years later, she was divorced with six kids and no high school diploma. Thinking that God somehow forgot her, Diane got wild and had another baby in the process. Satisfaction never came and she grew weary of running from God. So, she asked Him for another chance. Later, she met James and knew he was the man for her. They were married quickly and settled in the Roseland neighborhood of South Chicago where they had Aisha, her eighth child.
In 2003, Diane was 46 and working in her mother's hair salon. Aisha was 13 years old and running with a pack of nine friends and Diane worked hard to keep her on the right path. This included taking Aisha and her friends to the movies, and keeping them involved in various activities to keep them off the streets and out of trouble. In Roseland, being on the streets could mean sudden death. Gangs and drugs were rampant in her area. When Diane's mom saw the rapport she had with the kids, she told Diane she should use that gift and do something with the kids. Diane wrestled with her mom’s suggestion because she knew in five years her youngest would be 18 and Diane would be free and have time to herself. But God had other plans. Diane explains, “God, please ask someone else to do whatever it is You're telling me to do. If for some reason You do want me to do this, give me a sign. I need some real proof that's it's You before I jump. I need to know You’re going to catch me?” Then, Diane asked her daughter and friends if she started something in her house if they would participate. They responded with excitement sharing their dreams and aspirations for the future. “I want to be a lawyer! I want to be a singer! Well, I want to be a basketball player,” they shared. Diane had no idea what she was getting ready to start but she decided to follow the Lord’s prompting. She took them into her living room where they started making up positive and corny raps. Diane invited their parents over to watch them perform and it was amazing. Then, kids started pouring in every day and Diane found ways to help them. She opened up her living room and had 20 kids. Then, she had 25. Diane sold her family TV to buy computers because the kids were failing in school. Her husband thought she was losing her mind and her family was concerned about her safety. Several kids were in rival gangs. But Diane was determined to help these kids have a better life. More and more of them were pouring into her home. What started as a handful, turned into thousands. Her group became known as Kids Off the Block (KOB).
Diane has been in the middle of shoot outs and been targeted by gang members because she never turns a child away (regardless of what gang they are affiliated with). She’s endured heartbreak by losing several kids along the way. Diane created a memorial in her neighborhood with stones that have their names written on them so they are not forgotten. After receiving the CNN Hero award in 2011, donations and more media coverage followed, helping her organization grow. When she finally got a grant, she moved KOB into their building and out of her home. She was even interviewed by a camera crew that turned out to be part of the show ABC’s Secret Millionaire where the millionaire donated money, computers and had a new basketball court put in for them.
To date, Diane and KOB have helped over 3,000 young people with computer learning centers, tutoring, food, clothing, installing basketball courts, and creating teams--anything to keep them occupied and off the streets.
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